The Turkey Day countdown

November 15, 2017

It’s mid-November, which means….

It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving!

Anyone who knows me well knows that Thanksgiving is my very favoritest holiday of the year. I think because it’s such a paean to excess (and ain’t NOBODY loves excess the way I love excess) and good food (and not very many people love good food the way I love good food) and family (and I know lots of people love their families very much, but y’all, mine are just special, that’s all). Besides, it was my mama’s favorite holiday, and that apple did not fall far from the tree.

Well, it did, but over the years, it’s rolled back toward it. I think. I hope.

In any event, Mama loved Thanksgiving, and I do, too. But I’m experiencing a problem.

There are generally five of us — four adults, and a preschooler who insists on chicken nuggets — for Thanksgiving dinner. (I have, this year, tried to pressure friend Kate into coming up, so there may be another adult at the table. I can only hope.) There are certain dishes that are canonical, and believe you me, I have trimmed that list down as far as it can be trimmed down. That leaves only a small amount of room for variation in the Thanksgiving menu. But, hey, a gal can dream, can’t she? I might, in the next week, hit the Powerball jackpot, move into a house with a giant kitchen and dining room, and invite half the world for Thanksgiving dinner.

Probably not. But still, I can curate down the collection of recipes I’ve saved over recent weeks (the Copy Me That app is the devil, y’all, I swear!) and determine what I want to add to the tried-and-true list.

Which consists of:

  • The turkey. He is presently reposing in my freezer. He’s a farm bird, but I’m trying the frozen, vs. fresh, variety this year to determine if it’s the fresh-vs-frozen quality that makes the huge difference, as opposed to the small-farm-vs-factory farm. I suspect it is probably 75 percent the latter, but that may be made up for by the fact I can deal with an 11-pound bird easier than I can last year’s 24-pounder.
  • The dressing. Ordered it this year from Gina’s Place, a local diner which makes the best chicken and dressing on the planet, so why not let her make my dressing, as opposed to my inconsistent (when it’s good, it’s great, and when it ain’t, it’s awful) version? I will get a tub of dressing into which, on Thanksgiving morning, I will stir two beaten eggs, pour it out into a pan and bake it. I can do that.
  • The sweet potatoes. Boiled, peeled, mashed with butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Topped with a pecan streusel topping. Baked again. There would be armed revolt from the children if I didn’t do this, and truth be told, I’m pretty partial to ’em myownself.
  • The cranberry salad. Chopped up fresh cranberries, apples, oranges, pecans, in a Jello-based syrup. I could not do Thanksgiving without it. Could. Not. Do. It. It’s been on every Thanksgiving and Christmas table I can remember, and that’s well more than half a century of ’em.
  • Mashed potatoes. Because, well, hell, you’ve got to have SOMETHING to put that giblet gravy on, don’t you?
  • Giblet gravy. Because you’ve got to have SOMETHING to put on the mashed potatoes, don’t you? Yes, that’s circular logic. Sue me.
  • Miz Mary Loyd Young’s yeast rolls. Because, well, you just have to.
  • Dessert. Though I’m damned if I know why. We never are able to eat it.

That leaves very little room for experimentation. Maybe one more side dish. Corn pudding is often a contender. I will sometimes stick in an obligatory green thing; I was thinking about Brussels sprout and farro salad, albeit I’d probably be the only somebody who ate it. Ditto roasted broccoli in that sauce whose name I forget, but it has anchovies in it (it’s archived on my NYT Cooking recipe box page, which is another creation of Satan). Maybe an appetizer — maybe the blue cheese ball with chopped figs and honey I found this morning? With homemade Raincoast Crisp crackers? M’mm h’mm. That.

Dessert is also open for some experimentation. I have cooked a pumpkin, and have pumpkin puree in the freezer; I’ve been contemplating a pumpkin cheesecake. I found a recipe for pecan pie cheesecake. It’s hard to get past the standard favorites of lemon icebox pie or cherry cream cheese pie. I have that new chess pie recipe.

The one thing that helps a little bit is that we’ll do Thanksgiving potluck the Sunday before Thanksgiving (that would be this coming Sunday, for those of you counting) at church. They’ll provide turkey and dressing. We all bring sides and desserts. I have a new rice salad in the fridge I’m trying out. I may make that brussels sprout and farro dish, as it lends itself to room temperature serving. That may be the destination for the pumpkin cheesecake (maybe some caramel and some pecans on top?). Sweet potatoes are always a hit.

If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have any suggestions — do me a favor and don’t send them on. I’m already suffering from sensory overload. But do feel free to either show up for dinner — God knows, there’ll be plenty! — or any time over the weekend for leftovers.




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